Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire — “This is a very prestigious achievement! By winning the World Food Prize this year, Dr Monty Jones, the Father of the NERICA (New Rice for Africa), has made us very proud,” exclaimed Dr Kanayo F. Nwanze, Director General, The Africa Rice Center (WARDA).
Dr Jones’ groundbreaking work on the NERICAs – today the symbol of hope for millions of poor in Africa – was carried out at WARDA in the mid-90s. NERICA is the fruit of a remarkable technological breakthrough that helped combine the best features of Asian and African rice varieties. It is perfectly suited to African rice farmers and consumers.
Thanking WARDA, Dr Jones stated, “Indeed, this is a very prestigious award that comes as a pleasant surprise. However, it would not have come without the support and guidance of WARDA management, colleagues and friends.”
Dr Jones, Executive Secretary of the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), is the first African to receive the World Food Prize (known informally as the “Nobel Prize for Food and Agriculture”). He shares this year’s prize with Professor Yuan Longping from China, whose work was instrumental in achieving the world’s first high-yielding hybrid rice varieties.
“It is particularly befitting that this year’s World Food Prize has been awarded for achievements in rice research, since 2004 has been declared by the UN as the International Year of Rice (IYR). Large-scale IYR celebrations have been planned by WARDA in association with FAO, FARA and national governments in sub-Saharan Africa,” Dr Nwanze stated.
Convinced that NERICA has tremendous potential to reduce poverty and increase food security in sub-Saharan Africa, many donors and international NGOs are collaborating with African governments to help disseminate NERICA across the region.
“The NERICA success would not have been possible without sustained funding for rice research from members of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) and the support of African countries,” Dr Nwanze commented.
WARDA is an autonomous intergovernmental research association of African member states. It is also one of the 15 international agricultural research Centers supported by the CGIAR.
Mr Ian Johnson, Chairman and Dr Francisco Reifschneider, Director of the CGIAR attended the formal announcement ceremony of the 2004 World Food Prize Laureates on 29 March 2004. Congratulating Dr Jones and WARDA, they said they were very happy to see that the work of WARDA was “properly recognized”, which signifies “a great promise for a better tomorrow.”